GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In a one-on-one interview with FOX 17 Monday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer defended her vetoing of four election bills, she says were introduced to sow doubt in the election process.
“These efforts to undermine our ability to have confidence in our democracy, are not about fixing an issue here or there. It's about, you know, perpetuating the ‘big lie,’ said Whitmer. “I stand with the voters of Michigan, I stand to make sure that our elections are valid, and that they are accurate and that we can all have confidence in them. And that's why I took that action.”
Though some of those bills, like a measure to allow and expand polling place locations to private venues, received broad bipartisan support in Michigan’s House. The state GOP criticized her decision as "grandstanding" and "pandering."
Aaron Parseghian: How does expanding polling place locations to private, whether it's a facility like a senior living home or something like that, how does that perpetuate the big lie? Wouldn't that expand opportunities for people to vote?
Governor Whitmer“There's all sorts of spin on variety of bills and many of which would sound good, but they didn't even have the requisite funding behind them to make them a reality. That is because that is effort to undermine everyone's confidence in the election, that was accurate, that was fair, that was full, that was historic,” Whitmer said.
Last week, Governor Whitmer signed off a nearly $70 billion state budget that included record investments in childcare and K-12 education, but the budget also included a GOP-backed provision that would essentially force local health departments to drop school mask mandates.
Aaron Parseghian “You've already said [that language] is unconstitutional and unenforceable. Yet several local health departments including here in West Michigan, Barry-Eaton County Health Department, Berrien County, Allegan, they've all nixed their mandates. Is that concerning to you?
Governor Whitmer “Well it is concerning to me, because of course, that is in reaction to some of the ugliness that has been sent to our local public health departments ways. It's unfortunate that that is becoming more and more common in today's society. I know, I've had an incredible amount of ugliness sent my way. I am grateful for leaders like Dr. London here in Kent County who has said, no, we're not reversing course, we're going to protect people. And the best way to do it is to ensure that our children are wearing masks when they're in school. So I applaud the efforts of those leaders who have continued that policy, I understand the difficulty that others are navigating, but at the end of the day, this virus doesn't care what part of the state you live in. It doesn't care what side of the aisle you sit on. This virus is a real threat to our economy, and most importantly, to our health.”
Despite that, the governor implies there’s no push from her administration for a statewide K-12 mask mandate.
Aaron Parseghian You mentioned some of the ugliness and the anger often directed at health department leaders in the local level, also school boards. Wouldn't a statewide school mask mandate, take away some of the pressure that these organizations are feeling?
Governor Whitmer: Here's the thing, we at the beginning of this pandemic had to use a lot of blunt tools because that's all we had. We had a virus that was ravaging our state, we saw an incredible number of people losing their lives to this virus. And in the early days, the only tools we had were just trying to stay away from one another and I had to make some really hard decisions and certainly, it wasn't easy. But studies have shown we save 1000s of lives because of it. Now we're in a position where we have access to vaccines, one of which is produced right here in West Michigan, these vaccines are incredible, they're powerful in that they'll keep you safe, they work, they are easy to access, you can go up just about anywhere walking right now and get a vaccine if you are, if you're eligible, and they're free, they work. We have tools now that we didn't have a year and a half ago, these determinations at the local level are really important, so the public sees they have an ability to weigh in respectfully, but of course ability to understand and to make some decisions and weigh in. But when they happen at the local level, that is increases compliance and that's really the goal.”
On the vaccine front, the Governor tells FOX 17, the state is still working through how to implement President Biden's sweeping vaccine mandate for most workers.
"We're still waiting for the Department of Labor on the federal level to promulgate the rules, and then we will have to do the same at the state level, but we're waiting on the feds because that's who made the rule change. We get to see how it's going to be applied and then we've got to work with all of our stakeholders here in Michigan to make sure that it's very clear so people can get into compliance," Whitmer said.